Woman who spent a decade held captive shares the warning signs she thinks teens need to know

Tanya Kach was just 14 years old when she was kidnapped by Thomas Hose in 1996

Andrea Cavallier
Monday 17 June 2024 19:11 BST
Elizabeth Smart and Tanya Kach
Elizabeth Smart and Tanya Kach (Provided by Tanya Kach)

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After spending a decade held captive by her middle school’s security guard after he showered her with gifts and promises of a better life, Tanya Kach shares her own horrifying story now specifically for one reason: to warn others.

“I want this new generation to see all the warning signs of grooming and mental control and brainwashing,” she told The Independent.

Kach was just 14 years old when Thomas Hose kidnapped her in 1996 and kept her in the second-floor bedroom of his house for 10 years, where he sexually abused her.

The now 42-year-old told The Independent in an interview that she believes if social media and “websleuths” had existed back then, her ordeal would be “a totally different story.”

“But grooming hasn’t changed. Stockholm syndrome, brainwashing, mind control – that hasn’t changed,” she said.

Tanya Kach vanished at age 14 from McKeesport, Pa in 1996
Tanya Kach vanished at age 14 from McKeesport, Pa in 1996 (McKeesport Police handout)

Kach said her captor displayed all the warning signs of grooming, which she described as being super nice to her at school, showering her with jewelry, money for cigarettes and showing favoritism to her by allowing her slide when she attempted to skip class.

When Hose learned of Kach’s unstable home life after her parents’ divorce, her thoughts about wanting to run away and so after gaining her trust, he preyed on her vulnerabilities and convinced her to move in with him – with the promise of a better life.

“We’re in a different era, but that stuff hasn’t changed on how they groom you and how they lure you in. And mentally have that hold on you,” Kach said.

In 2007, Hose pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children, corruption of a minor, interference with custody of children and aggravated indecent assault, according to The Associated Press.

After serving 15 years in prison, Hose was released in 2022, according to WTAE. He is registered as a sex offender under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law.

Thomas Hose served 15 years in prison for sexual assault in the kidnapping of Tanya Kach in 1996
Thomas Hose served 15 years in prison for sexual assault in the kidnapping of Tanya Kach in 1996 ( PA Megan’s Law)

Now, nearly 20 years after escaping her nightmare, Kach has teamed up with Elizabeth Smart, another kidnapping survivor, to share her story in a new Lifetime movie, The Girl Locked Upstairs: The Tanya Kach Story, an experience she described as “life changing”.

“I have always wanted to meet (Smart), knowing that we both went through something similar," she told TODAY.com. “I’ve always looked up to her.”

“I’ve gotten a lot of messages from moms saying they’re going to watch it with their teenage daughters, which I think is fabulous,” she told TODAY.com.

She said she also hopes her story helps women who may be in the midst of an abusive relationship.

The Girl Locked Upstairs: The Tanya Kach Story, starring Robert Baker (Supergirl) and Jordyn Ashley Olson
The Girl Locked Upstairs: The Tanya Kach Story, starring Robert Baker (Supergirl) and Jordyn Ashley Olson (A+E Networks)

“I want them to walk away from the film saying, ‘I have hope. I can get through this, and I can get out of this.’”

Kach also knew the film provided a chance to teach teenagers, young women and parents about the warning signs of a potentially abusive or coercive relationship.

“This is a new generation that needs to learn about grooming and brainwashing because I’ve been free now for 18 years – it’s a different time now.”

The Girl Locked Upstairs: The Tanya Kach Story is now available on Lifetime.

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